The 5-seeded "Cardiac 'Cats" showed why they've earned their heart-pumping nickname Wednesday night in The Q, downing No. 8 Miami 63-55, and advancing on to the quarterfinals of the 2014 MAC Tournament.
The game started off about as sloppy as could be, with both teams shooting under 30 percent in the first half and 20 fouls getting called by the intermission, but it turned into quite a thriller late in the second half. An inspired and energetic Ohio squad used a late rally to eventually down their heated rivals, for the third time this season, and proving that while beating a team three times in one year isn't easy, it's not unheard of.
There's not much to write about the awful first half, other than it was truly awful. The squads bricked shots like it was their job, and between all the whistles, barely managed to put together a first half. Ohio led 27-23 at halftime, despite having a 10-minute stretch midway through the half without a field goal.
It wasn't all bad. Miami sophomore guard Willie Moore went off, scoring the bulk of the RedHawks 23 first-half points. He finished the game with a team-high 16, but was noticeably quiet in the second half. But in the second half the tone of the game took a dramatic change of tone.
With fewer whistles, the squads were able to develop rhythms, and push the ball up and down the court with liquid ease.
The teams traded blow-for-blow as each squad went on mini bursts of untouchable scoring. Ohio's Stevie Taylor led one such burst midway through the second-half, draining a pair of 3-pointers in a 25-second span to give the 'Cats a slight lead. But Miami's Jaryd Eustace kept things interesting, firing back in a big way. The Australian freshman went off midway through the second half.
He scored all 15 of his points in the second half, with the bulk of them coming in a 7-minute span that saw him single handedly build the 'Hawks lead out to four midway through the half. But with the 'Cats draining buckets at a 50 percent clip, and no one outside of Eustace really able to contribute much in the final 10 minutes, Ohio started to pull away.
A pair of 3-point plays by Javarez Willis and Nick Kellogg (Kellogg's of the old-fashioned variety) saw the momentum, and a five point lead, swing in the 'Cats favor at the 4-minute mark.
Miami was able to respond, and with two minutes to go Will Felder actually brought the game to within 1-point on a hard-fought bucket at the rim, but the duo of Willis and Kellogg were unstoppable, combining for seven unanswered points in the final 32 seconds to put their rivals away for good.
Kellogg finished the night with a game-high 20 points on 8-for-17 from the floor, but just 1-for-8 from behind the arc. Willis added 13, while eating up a bulk of the minutes at point guard filling in for the banged up Taylor.
With the win Ohio moves on to play rival No. 4 Akron Thursday night. Ohio split the season-series losing in double overtime in the first game, but beating the 'Zips by 16 the second-time around.